Located in the Kailali District of western Nepal, Ghodaghodi Lake is a Ramsar site, recognized for its international importance as a wetland. Established in August 2003, the lake sits at an altitude of 205 meters above sea level and spans an area of 2,563 hectares on the lower slopes of the Siwalik Hills. The lake is a complex system of around 13 large and shallow lakes and ponds, including Nakhrodi lake and other associated marshes and meadows, surrounded by tropical deciduous forest and some streams along the periphery.
The Legend and Cultural Significance of Ghodaghodi Lake
The name ‘Ghodaghodi’ is derived from the Nepali word for male and female horses. According to legend, a hermit transformed Lord Shiva and Parvati into horses, and they used to encircle the lake. Today, Ghodaghodi Lake is an important place of worship for the local Tharu people. A small temple on the banks of the lake attracts many Tharus during the Agahan Panchami and Maghi Festivals, where they offer clay figures of horses, elephants, and tigers to the Goddess Gauri Mata in hopes of having their wishes fulfilled.
The Biodiversity of Ghodaghodi Lake
Ghodaghodi Lake is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. The lake and its surrounding area boast a record of 388 vascular plants, including five pteridophytes, 253 dicots, and 130 monocots. The forest and wetlands serve as a wildlife corridor between the Terai lowland and the Siwalik Hills, supporting critically endangered and vulnerable species including the Bengal Tiger, Smooth Coated Otter, Eurasian Otter, Swamp Deer, Lesser Adjutant, Marsh Crocodile, Red-Crowned Turtle, and Three Striped Roofed Turtle.
The lake region is also an important habitat for birds in Nepal. It acts as a staging post for migrating wetland birds and is home to both native and overwintering species. A total of 140 bird species have been recorded in the lake area, including the globally threatened Lesser Adjutant and the near-threatened Darter.
The Role of Ghodaghodi Lake in Local Livelihoods
The lake has become an integral part of the lives of the people living around it. The surrounding area is highly productive, providing opportunities for farming and grazing livestock. The lake also provides locals with fodder, fuelwood, fishing opportunities, and the potential for increased tourism. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the microclimate of the region and importantly in flood mitigation and replenishment of groundwater.
However, the lake and its surrounding wetlands face threats due to increasing population, internal migration, and the need for agricultural land. Activities such as grazing, picking wild mushrooms, firewood collection, fishing, and logging are done in a haphazard manner, leading to environmental degradation. The local authorities and the District Forest Office are working to protect the wetland by imposing strict laws and fencing the lake area.
Ghodaghodi Lake is a natural treasure in the far western Terai of Nepal. Its rich biodiversity, cultural significance, and role in local livelihoods make it a must-visit destination for nature lovers, bird watchers, and those interested in experiencing the unique culture of the Tharu people. As efforts to protect and preserve this wetland continue, it is hoped that Ghodaghodi Lake will continue to be a sanctuary for wildlife and a source of sustenance for the local community for generations to come.
Top Activities to Do in Ghodaghodi Lake
Ghodaghodi Lake, with its rich biodiversity and cultural significance, offers a variety of activities for visitors. Here are some top things to do when you visit this part of Nepal:
1. Bird Watching
With over 140 bird species recorded in the area, including globally threatened and near-threatened species, Ghodaghodi Lake is a paradise for bird watchers. Bring your binoculars and enjoy the sight of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.
2. Wildlife Spotting
The lake and its surrounding wetlands serve as a wildlife corridor, supporting critically endangered and vulnerable species. Take a guided tour to spot these magnificent creatures, including the Bengal Tiger, Smooth Coated Otter, Eurasian Otter, Swamp Deer, and various species of turtles.
3. Visit the Gauri Mata Temple
Located on the banks of the lake, the Gauri Mata Temple is an important place of worship for the local Tharu people. Visit the temple to learn about the local culture and traditions.
4. Enjoy the Scenic Views
The lake, surrounded by tropical deciduous forest and the Siwalik Hills, offers stunning views. Take a leisurely walk around the lake or simply sit by its banks to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
With its rich biodiversity and stunning landscapes, Ghodaghodi Lake is a great place for photography. Capture the beauty of this region through your lens.
6. Participate in Local Festivals
If your visit coincides with the Agahan Panchami or Maghi Festivals, you can witness the local Tharu people offering clay figures to the Goddess Gauri Mata at the temple by the lake. Participating in these festivals is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
Ghodaghodi Lake offers a diverse range of activities that cater to every traveler's interests. Whether you're a nature lover, a wildlife enthusiast, a cultural explorer, or a photography enthusiast, Ghodaghodi Lake has something to offer for everyone.